2014 reading

At the beginning of January I committed to the Empty Shelf challenge. I wanted to do this because I value reading. It is important for my faith, leadership and general self-improvement. Over the last few years I have read hardly anything not religious or church leadership oriented, so the list reflects some of those changes. Some of my favorite books of the past have been historical or biographical. I am also reading more fiction, especially classic southern writers.

I hope this list and the quick reviews can help you in your life and leadership. Feel free to ask any questions about things.

2014 Reading

1. The Two Minute Leader: Brian K Dodd. Brian is a friend and runs an amazing blog condensing leadership practices. His book is a super practical and accessible book.

2. What the Most Successful People Do On The Weekends: Laura Vanderkam. I struggle with patterns of Sabbath. I either go full tilt or marathon Netflix. This quick read really outlines the benefits of planning downtime. It sounds crazy…but it is great.

3. A Disruptive Faith: A.W.Tozer. Sadly, this book fell victim to many of the posthumos works of Tozer. I absolutely am crazy about a few others of his books (The Pursuit of God and Knowledge of the Holy are amazing), but this wasn’t that great. It is a compilation, so it suffers from continuity.

4. Planting Missional Churches: Ed Stetzer. Although it is older, this book is hyper-practical for any stage of church leadership. The religious landscape of America has changed and Stetzer’s words are timely.

5. The Social Church: Justin Wise. I reviewed this book in a full length post. It is great. Instead of task based books, it introduces a theology of communication for the 21st century. Read it.

6. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary is a notorious social media marketer and strategist. He shows the benefits of long practice and gives examples of good and bad social communication in our age.

7. Ten: Sean Gladding. Sean has profound Biblical wisdom he shares through a wonderful narrative style. This book tells a great story about the Ten Commandments.

8. Why Church Buildings Matter: Tim Cool. Have you every thought of the story your building tells? Whether it is new construction, major renovations or just weekly cleaning, our buildings are part of our mission.

9. Manage Your Day-to-day: 99u. I love anything 99u puts out. It is a great creative and productive resource for leaders. This is just one of their books on my list for this year. Edited by Jocelyn K. Glei, every chapter is written by an expert and is easily digestible.

10. Johnny Cash: Robert Hilburn. I have read plenty of Cash biographies (and the autobiographies). None tells this story better than this one. It is inspiring and humbling.

11. Bounty: Scott McKenzie and Kristine Miller. Church finances are something I didn’t learn about in seminary. This book explains 10 best practices of proactive financial management for people in ministry.

12. The Hyperlinked Life: Barna Frames. I am really excited about the Frames series. This book starts a conversation about how the internet and smart devices affect life in the 21st century. It has great infographics and information.

13. Empire of the Summer Moon: S.C.Gwynne. This book is a look at the Comanche Indians, their rise to supremacy in the American West and their eventual destruction by first the Spainish, then the Texans and finally the U.S. Military.

14. Maximize Your Potential: 99u. Another 99u resource, this book focuses on the practices of creative and entrepreneurial leaders.



Did you ever build a fort as a kid? I had a little shack I constructed out of old fence boards. It stayed up for several years and was one of my favorite places. I even stayed the night out in it a few times.

As an adult, I even still fantasize about having a special place. I catch myself researching building sheds and cabins out in the woods. One of my favorite special places is a tiny prayer shack in the middle of the woods outside the Abbey of Gethsemani.

We want special places because we can create special things. Special memories, moments, rituals and gatherings.

Worship should be a created special place.

As we are winding up our study of the disciplines, we come to one of my favorite topics and scripture passages. This week we are going to be talking about worship. To do that, we will use Revelation 4 as our focus passage. This is my absolutely favorite chapter of scripture in the Bible.

Then as I looked, I saw a door standing open in heaven, and the same voice I had heard before spoke to me like a trumpet blast. The voice said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must happen after this.” And instantly I was in the Spirit,and I saw a throne in heaven and someone sitting on it. The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones—like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow. Twenty-four thrones surrounded him, and twenty-four elders sat on them. They were all clothed in white and had gold crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning and the rumble of thunder. And in front of the throne were seven torches with burning flames. This is the sevenfold Spirit of God. In front of the throne was a shiny sea of glass, sparkling like crystal.

In the center and around the throne were four living beings, each covered with eyes, front and back. The first of these living beings was like a lion; the second was like an ox; the third had a human face; and the fourth was like an eagle in flight. Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty—
the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”

Whenever the living beings give glory and honor and thanks to the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever), the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne and say,

“You are worthy, O Lord our God,
to receive glory and honor and power.
For you created all things,
and they exist because you created what you pleased.”

Revelation is the perfect place to build a biblical idea of worship. Most of the book is worship. We usually don’t get to realize that because we rarely open up Revelation.

This passage shows us three key things about worship and creating special place.

1. Worship gives us the place to learn about the character of God.
2. Worship gives us the place to see who God is.
3. Worship gives us the place to honor the God we know.

See you this Sunday!

What is a sermon preview?
Sermon previews are released on Friday’s. They are to give YOU a short glimpse of what the conversation is going to be like on Sunday morning. On Monday, the preview is updated with some discussion questions, scripture guide and an mp3 of the sermon. I do these for 2 reasons. The first is so God can continue working in your life throughout the week. The second is for you to share this with a friend. I invite and encourage you to share the preview on Facebook/Twitter and through email.

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When I was 6 my Mom washed my mouth out with soap because I said a dirty word.

I tried to tell her I learned it from a bathroom wall…but the context I used the word in was a little too correct. Mom knew a 1st grader didn’t really understand the exclamatory proper usage of a cuss word out of sheer ignorance.

There are a few words many church folk would consider dirty. Not because they are “bad”, but they just don’t fit in the nice, proper version of Christianity we are comfortable with. Fasting can be a dirty word (probably because we don’t want to do it).

Confession is a dirty word for several reasons. It might be a Protestant hangup or just unwillingness to admit to what you know isn’t right. No matter the excuse, confession matters.

This Sunday we are talking about confessions integral place in the Christian life and it’s necessity for any move of God.

This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. All of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. His clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey.

John announced: “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!”

Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” Mark 1:4-8,14-15

In any mighty move of God, confession is at the beginning.

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Confession is the prerequisite for everything God wants to do in our life.

Confession isn’t what we think it is. Yes, there is an openness to our own sin and faultiness. The openness of confession doesn’t end there (thankfully). Confession is an open admittance of who is in power.

Join us tomorrow in worship as we think about how confession needs to fit in our life.

What is a sermon preview?
Sermon previews are released on Friday’s. They are to give YOU a short glimpse of what the conversation is going to be like on Sunday morning. On Monday, the preview is updated with some discussion questions, scripture guide and an mp3 of the sermon. I do these for 2 reasons. The first is so God can continue working in your life throughout the week. The second is for you to share this with a friend. I invite and encourage you to share the preview on Facebook/Twitter and through email.

productive pastor

Since October of last year The Productive Pastor has had great success. It’s all thanks to you. The listener community for this podcast is amazing. I love how many connections have been made and the conversations that have sprung up.

Over the last two weeks I have been producing what was going to be episode 12: The App Episode. I never was able to get an interview scheduled and wasn’t satisfied with other parts of the production. I was getting frustrated with the whole thing.

Life (and Ministry) have also been chaotic. I realized if I wanted to keep up sharing and currating great content I need to take a break. And that was OK. I also need to put some energy behind a project I can really talk about just yet.

Television shows take breaks. They are called seasons.

So let’s consider episodes 1-11 the first season. This episode is here to explain a few things and add to the theological conversation about productivity.

Episode 13 will start season 2. And it will totally rock. With it, I will be rolling out some additional content to the Productive Pastor community. So keep your eyes open. Give me a month or so. (we will absolutely be back up by the middle of May. I promise).

Thanks for listening.

The Rocket Cast by The Rocket Company
My Sermon Planning Worksheet

Direct Download


We don’t live in a world which values simplicity. We find tips and tricks to supposedly enhance simplicity, but it usually just adds steps and complications with a false sense of easy.

Jesus teaches an unlikely message of simplicity to his followers in the midst of solitude. While he goes to the wilderness to find calm, he instead teaches about simplicity of belief and faith to thousands.

As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”

But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.”

“But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered.

“Bring them here,” he said. Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children!

Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning[a] Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here![b]

Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

“Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong[c] wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

After they had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret. When the people recognized Jesus, the news of his arrival spread quickly throughout the whole area, and soon people were bringing all their sick to be healed. They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed. Matthew 14:13-36

If I think of a miracle involving the supernatural multiplication of food, I am really hoping Jesus does something awesome with BBQ ribs. Instead, we get the 1st century equivalent of vienna sausages and crackers. Jesus does amazing things with a simple meal.

Immediately after this miracle he sends his disciples away so he can finish his original mission of prayer and reflection. In the middle of the night Jesus makes His way out to the boat and calls Peter to walk to him on the water (normal..right?). In this interchange Jesus makes a declaration of self which rings across scripture.

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here! (v27).

Echoing God’s identity of “I am who I am” in Exodus 3, Jesus asks the disciples to make a decision based off of what he has revealed to them. The disciples can think of their experiences with Christ and realize how powerful he really is.

The simple things matter because they build our idea of who God is.

When we can’t trust the simple we can never expect the big.

See you in worship this Sunday.

Explore Other Messages:

Chad Brooks - Mar 9, 2014

Practicing Prayer

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What is a sermon preview?
Sermon previews are released on Friday’s. They are to give YOU a short glimpse of what the conversation is going to be like on Sunday morning. On Monday, the preview is updated with some discussion questions, scripture guide and an mp3 of the sermon. I do these for 2 reasons. The first is so God can continue working in your life throughout the week. The second is for you to share this with a friend. I invite and encourage you to share the preview on Facebook/Twitter and through email.

sermon planning worksheet

I was privileged to be part of the sermonsmith podcast a few weeks ago. In my interview I mentioned my sermon planning worksheet. I have been getting questions about this sheet, so I decided to tell a little more about it. Below is a .pdf download of my current sheet.

sermon worksheet 2014

Why I use a sermon planning worksheet

I really prefer having a physical document to orient my sermon preparation. I have found beginning a sermon on this sheet and letting it be for a couple of weeks is a great jump start to my weekly preparation. I have used variations of this sheet for years. In seminary, it was really focused on structural relationships and verb forms. A later version had big space for word study. Over the last couple of years it has evolved towards communication. Once I have a good understanding of the most important thing I can communicate, the sheet helps me trim down and not rabbit trail.

I do leave space for some extra things. I file these sheets away and I am hoping one day they will be a resource to someone.

The major thrust of my current version of the sheet reflects a set of questions at the core of Preaching rocket.

1. What is my message about?
2. What is at stake?
3. What do I want you (them) to do?
4. What is my bottomline?

After working weekly with those four questions and examining both my preparation and content/delivery of my sermons I realized a weakness I need to work on. It was actually glaring (to me. I needed to learn to better preach towards response. You would figure me growing up baptist this wouldn’t be hard. My preaching naturally defaults towards teaching so I need to start spending some time working on response. So the worksheet was modified again!

These are now the sections on my sheet. You can download a copy at the bottom of the post and see how I structure them.

1. What is my text/title?
2. What is my message about?
3. What is my big idea?
4. Important words/phrases5. Relationships/Structures
6. Backstory
7. How does this change my life?
8. What do I need to do?

You can see the evolution of my preaching in this current sheet. The heavy exegetical stuff is still there, but the newer additions to the sheet keep it focused. Asking the last two questions reminds me of what the most important part of proclamation is. God’s word never leaves us the same.

Should you use my sheet? Well, you can if you want…but I think you could easily come up with something better. What I encourage you to do is begin a process of discovering what helps you plan sermons best. I would love for you to share yours with me.

Related Posts:
My Favorite Resources for Modern Preaching
The Easiest Way to Preach Better Sermons
Teaching a Retreat? Here’s How I Plan


Other Resources:
Communicating For A Change: Andy Stanley (Great book for those looking at 1 point preaching)
Narrative Reading, Narrative Preaching: Reuniting New Testament Interpretation and Proclamation: Joel B Green and Michael Pasquarello For anyone who doesn’t believe preaching cannot be a marriage between the intellect and the heart needs to read this book. Dr. Pasquarello was my adviser and reader when I wrote my master’s thesis on preaching Revelation. This needs to be part of every preachers library.
Jonathan Andersen’s Exegetical Worksheet. This comes from the episode 2 of the productive pastor (link is in the shownotes). Jonathan does a great job putting together a sheet to guide exegesis.


productive pastor

Over the last few episodes we have been talking about time periods of productivity. We thought about the month, several podcasts about the week. It is time to talk about the value of the day. I think this is one of the hardest pieces of productivity to master. It is easy to set big goals…it is harder to move them forward consistently each day (I even used a football reference for the first time in my career in this episode). I have been excited about this episode because I share one of my new favorite productive geek fascinations.

The List:
We have three great blog posts for you to check out this episode. They are all important to our conversation.

How to Measure Progress in Your Personal Goals: Daily, Weekly and Monthly: Belle Beth Cooper
Goals aren’t worth that much if we aren’t reaching them. To reach them, we need to track them. It’s essential. She shares about monthly goals, review processes and easy ways to track progress.

The Best Times to Write and Get Ideas, According to Science: Kevan Lee
I think one of the secrets of high functioning people is their ability to know when they get things done. To realize certain times of the day seem to be wired for certain activities. What do you do better in the morning, afternoon or evening.

How to be Prolific: Guidelines For Getting It Done from Josh Whedon: Ari Karpel
Joss Whedon’s ability to do many different things at the same time is amazing. Not multitasking, but handling several really big projects at the same time. This blog post is a great look into the mind of a creative genius.


How to Have a Productive (and Great) Day

I believe there is a secret to building a personal theology of “the day.” This secret is simple. Know what you absolutly must do each day to move forward. Ministry is interesting because we can spend all of our time just keeping the ball in the air. I think this is a disservice to calling as well as the people we are ministering with.

Casey Graham (founder of The Rocket Company) wrote a really interesting blog post. He shared a secret to an extremely fruitful week in the life of his company.

How One Calendar Change Made Us $33,000

While our goal in ministry isn’t making money (no matter what people might say), there are some great lessons to be learned in Casey’s blog post. Having a focused point of each day, even if it means devoting a whole day to mundane tasks, lets anyone really do great work when it matters.

I have also become fascinated with day sheets and how they can help us organize each day. I discovered them pretty recently. Here are a few options for day sheets.

David Seah’s Emergent Task Planner. (amazon purchase link)
Donald Miller’s Storyline sheet
Ben Arment’s Storycraft sheet

Bill Streger Interview
A few episodes back I first shared Bill’s Massive Action Plan. It is a fantastic weekly planning sheet. I have a quick conversation with Bill about his church, his productivity strategy and his use of planning sheets.

Weekly Massive Action Plan

Check us out on Facebook! If you like the podcast, I would absolutely LOVE an iTunes review and rating.

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March marks my one year anniversary being a Rocket Company customer. Early in 2013 I decided to invest in Preaching Rocket coaching. I had a gut feeling it would be worth it. A year out…I would do it all over again in a heart beat. The team at The Rocket Company is amazing and has increased my ministry so much in the last year. I want to share with you just a little of what I have learned in the last 12 months.

1. Skills
This last year has been a gathering season of many different skills. I wrote earlier in the year why I love (and recommend) preaching rocket. I have also benefited from Volunteer Rocket. What I appreciate the most is how I have now been able to apply other skills across the board. Here are just a few

  • Getting feedback
  • Strategic Design
  • Organizational Clarity in Communication

2. Community
Many of the largest benefits I have gleaned from The Rocket Company hasn’t come from their products, but the community I stumbled into. My friend Brian Dodd runs an amazing blog. Casey Graham (the founder) consistently inspires me to dream bigger and better. Michael Lukaszewski (CEO) reminds me to think about the small stuff. There are other customers (Bobby Williams is a great example) who share their own strategies and helps.  These, as well as many others, contributed TONS to my ministry in the last year.

3. The Rocket Company Rewired My Brain (not in a creepy way).
This one has been a game changer. Preaching Rocket showed me the benefits of setting up systems and patterns in my sermon preparation to help me handle busy seasons of ministry. In many ways, The Rocket Company is responsible for The Productive Pastor Podcast. I have transitioned so much of my work flow around pretty basic principals I first learned from them.

4. The Desire to Always Do Better.
I want to be a better pastor every day. Most people in ministry can make this statement. I can tell you I learned practical ways to actually do it. Yes, they almost all best involve a more efficient use of time and a constant quest for vision clarity. I now know my planning matters because it affects my ability to best respond, preach and move forward.

I spent 5 years in seminary. I learned skills I will carry with me for the rest of life. Seminary formed me, taught me to think critically and equipped me. Once I was several years out of seminary, I realized I lacked some practical (and modern) ministry skills which simply can’t be taught in the classroom. I took a leap of faith hoping I might find some resources to help fill those holes in. I wanted top notch coaching and I found it.

The folks over at The Rocket Company are amazing people. Yes, this was a financial investment on my part…but it is worth every cent. I look forward to whatever they do in the future. Go check them out.

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Over Lent, St. Paul’s is centering our worship and study on Richard Foster’s classic book The Celebration of Discipline. Our first week we are thinking about prayer. It is a perfect way to begin practicing Lent as a church.

Prayer has not come easy to me. I have written about my own practices for prayer around the blog before (here and here). This Sunday our scripture is taken from the beautiful passage in the sermon on the mount when Jesus shares a prayer method with his disciples. It is a great beginning to practicing prayer.

When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! Pray like this:

Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need,
and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:5-15 (NLT)

Many of us grew up in church praying a version of this prayer every week. It might flow over our lips without us every really thinking about it. The Lords Prayer is an easy prayer because we don’t have to figure out what to do. I think the greatest tension for many of us when we think about prayer is figuring out what to do…or how to move away from the basic actions of just checking off prayer requests.

The beauty of the Lord’s prayer is a structure clearly not about the person praying. Instead, this prayer is focused on God, His world, what he is doing and how He helps the believers living in a world waiting for the kingdom.

Prayer builds the walls in God’s house of our heart.

Many of our own personal troubles stem from having a small vision of who God is. It is impossible to have a big view of God without constantly being with him. So what happens is we come into circumstances where we really need him…without us really knowing him. We then default into manipulating God instead of understanding what faithfulness looks like. We try to control God. If we want God to have control over the big things, we need to spend the time in prayer to develop a big vision of who he is.

I’m excited to start this series on Spiritual Disciplines. This will be a great kick off week.

Explore Other Messages:

Chad Brooks - Mar 9, 2014

Practicing Prayer

More From "Celebration of Discipline"

Practicing Prayer Mar 9, 2014 Listen

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What is a sermon preview?
Sermon previews are released on Friday’s. They are to give YOU a short glimpse of what the conversation is going to be like on Sunday morning. On Monday, the preview is updated with some discussion questions, scripture guide and an mp3 of the sermon. I do these for 2 reasons. The first is so God can continue working in your life throughout the week. The second is for you to share this with a friend. I invite and encourage you to share the preview on Facebook/Twitter and through email.

Lent 2014

March 6, 2014 — Leave a comment


Today The Threshing Floor released episode 11 and we shared about Lent and our practices (we are gathering everyone’s practices together using the hashtag #lenting). I am always a fan of looking in other peoples toolboxes, so I figured I would share what I am doing for Lent this year.

I absolutely love Lent being a season of introducing things into life for a season and hopefully learning something from them.

Corporate Practices:
This Lent St. Paul’s (the church I serve) is going through Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. I am excited to be preaching and teaching from the conversation it brings. This has always been a favorite book for me, so I can’t wait to see what this season looks likes for the friends I am privileged to minister with.

Personal Practices:
As I shared on The Threshing Floor, I am reading two books during Lent. Both of these books are focused on 2nd and 3rd century desert monasticism. I have read them before for Lent and absolutely love it.

Athanasius: The Life of Antony of the Desert
Sayings of the Desert Fathers

I am reading the Major and Minor Old Testament prophets as well. I have also decided to write a poem every day during Lent. I have never done this before, so I don’t know how it will turn out.

As far as giving something up, I work from the perspective of whatever is given up needs to be creating the space for Jesus to move in. My decision was to give up late night Netflix. I usually spend around an hour and a half in the evening watching television and I have decided to instead take that time for reflection and prayer.